The growing border crisis, overseen by President Joe Biden’s administration, is causing issues among top advisors as they try to reach a solution, according to an Axios report.
As lawmakers continue to debate a potential Senate bill that funds Ukraine, Israel and different border security initiatives, the U.S.-Mexico border has become overwhelmed. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) encountered more than 300,000 migrants during December 2023, the highest month on record. As pressure mounts, top officials are shifting the blame amongst each other, with some even wiping their plate clear of such responsibility, sources told Axios.
During a meeting on the border crisis in January 2023, Biden had an outburst in front of top advisers, including then-Deputy Chief of Staff Jen O’Malley Dillon and Homeland Security adviser Liz Sherwood-Randall, several sources familiar told Axios. The president exploded because his staff didn’t have “obscure immigration data points,” the sources told Axios.
White House spokesperson Andrew Bates refuted the characterization to Axios.
“Multiple firsthand participants of the meeting refute this description of the tone and outcome,” Bates said. The meeting discussed “the specifics of this complex issue.”
While National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan has historically not taken on border issues, the top adviser left his portfolio to Sherwood-Randall, who was inexperienced on the issue, sources told Axios.
Vice President Kamala Harris, who Biden tasked with solving the root causes of the migration crisis spanning across Central America in 2021, has made it clear that her role started and ended with Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, people familiar with a meeting told Axios. As the migration crisis has become more of a global issue, Harris has reportedly shied away from taking on more responsibility.
“She’s been at best ineffective, and at worst sporadically engaged and not seeing it was her responsibility,” a former Biden administration senior official told Axios. “It’s an opportunity for her, and she didn’t fill the breach.”
Tension among Domestic Policy Adviser Susan Rice, Sherwood-Randall and Harris has been present, people familiar with the dynamics told Axios. The tension between Rice and Harris stems from their run for the White House in 2020, Axios reported. Rice has reportedly appeared to take pride in being more up to speed on the border crisis than the vice president.
A spokesperson for Rice in a comment to Axios denied that there was tension in the relationship between the two leaders.
Rice and other officials have deep animosity toward Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra because he failed to find more space in child migrant shelters, several sources familiar with the dynamics told Axios. Rice has reportedly previously referred to Becerra as a “bitch ass” and privately called him an “idiot.”
Rice slipped a note to Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas during a meeting where Biden was upset with Becerra, according to Axios. The note reportedly read, “Don’t save him.”